Will Trump Listen Now?

 

The whole world knows the shouting match between Trump and Kim Jong-un is a bad idea. And myriad voices have been raised in an effort to calm things down. Unfortunately, the two loudmouths haven’t been listening.

But when Vladimir Putin chimes in with a word of warning, perhaps Trump, at least, will pay attention. In an article on the Kremlin’s website, Putin writes:

Provocations, pressure and bellicose and offensive rhetoric is the road to nowhere.

For reasons that I can only guess at, Trump seems to respect – even revere – Putin, So I’m hoping he will take the Russian despot’s words to heart.

Putin cautions in his article that America’s stand-off with North Korea is on the verge of triggering “a large-scale conflict.” He urges Trump to talk things over with Kim.

He writes:

It is essential to resolve the region’s problems through direct dialogue involving all sides without advancing any preconditions

I am no Putin fan. From what I’ve read, he is a bully, a show-off and a thief with innocent blood on his hands. But when he talks, Trump listens. And the world should welcome any calming influence at this point.

China’s Xi Jinping is also calling for calm. And China has a lot of influence with Kim. Without China’s economic support, North Korea cannot survive.

With Putin holding Trump back and Xi Ping restraining Kim, the world might be spared a nuclear holocaust after all.

Putin’s warning

China’s role

 

Kamala Harris for President

 

We Jamaicans are not easily intimidated. Ask Kamala Harris. Or, better yet, ask John McCain. Ask Richard Burr. They were among the Republican senators who tried – and failed – to shut her up during recent committee hearings.

She kept talking back. Yes, a woman, a black woman, had the temerity to stand up to her white, male bullies. As Bob Dylan sang so long ago, the times they are a-changin’.

Ms. Harris is the daughter of Jamaican and Indian immigrants.  Her father is Jamaican-born Donald Harris, a professor at Stanford University, and her mother is Dr Shyamala Gopalan Harris, a breast cancer specialist, from Chennai, India.

And she’s a groundbreaker. She broke the color barrier in California when she won her US Senate seat. Never before had California sent a black or Latino candidate to the Senate.

And that was par for the course for her. Ms. Harris was the first woman elected as San Francisco’s district attorney and the first woman elected as California’s attorney general.

So it doesn’t surprise me when she joins Bernie Sanders in proposing legislation to extend Medicare coverage to all Americans. Of all the so-called Democrats in the Senate, hers is the lone voice raised so far in support of Bernie’s single-payer health care bill.

I guess it takes a Jamaican to boldly go where others dare not go. And that’s what we need from the Democrats. They’ve compromised for too long. It’s time for the party to stand for something.

Ms. Harris explains she backed Bernie’s bill because “it was the right thing to do.”

Isn’t that reason enough?

More and more, it looks as if Ms. Harris would be the Democrats’ best bet in the 2020 presidential race.

A Jamaican in the White House. Wouldn’t that be something?

More on Kamala Harris

More on her Jamaican roots

Ms. Harris at Committee hearings.

More on her chances

 

The Wisdom of the Masses

 

The form of government we call democracy relies on the wisdom of voters. But when I read the daily round-up on Yahoo News, I wonder how wise America’s voters really are. This morning for example, I read an item that made me scratch my poor old, bald head.

It wasn’t the one about the internet – and media – frenzy that resulted when Melania Trump wore stiletto heels on her visit to flood-ravaged Texas. Or the one about the latest episode on “Game of Thrones.”

I’ve come to expect fluff like that. Yahoo News routinely mixes earth-shattering events with trivia about the Kardashian family’s fashion picks and Princess Kate’s wardrobe malfunctions. It’s what they do.

What brought me up short this morning was a report about Fox News.

I never watch Fox News myself, but I understand it’s the most watched cable news channel in America. So when Yahoo informed me that Fox reported a shark swimming through traffic on a flooded Houston road, I wondered who was kidding whom.

But it was for real. The folks at Fox News really thought a shark was swimming along  a flooded Houston street. Here’s what Fox News host Jesse Waters breathlessly proclaimed on “The Five”:

I’ve seen some amazing things out there just looking at television Alligators on people’s back door steps. I saw a shark on a highway swimming in the water. There’s some really weird biblical things that are going on down there in Houston.

Of course, you and I know the shark photo (above) is an old hoax. Sharks don’t swim along flooded streets – not even in the Bible. Watters’ “scoop” was photoshopped by some anonymous internet prankster many years ago.

But this is far from the most blatant hoax that Fox has fed its gullible viewers. The Fox folks love conspiracy theories – like the “assassination” of DNC staffer Seth Rich – and they shamelessly “spin” their newscasts to promote their political agenda.

So, I ask you, how wise are America’s voters – especially the millions who get their information from Fox?

The Fox News broadcast

The real story

The stiletto heels scandal

The Seth Rich story

More Fox News “conspiracies”

 

Is Racism Contagious?

 

I lived in Canada for two decades before coming to America, and I was shocked to read a story this morning about a Canadian woman shouting racist slurs at an elderly Filipino couple on the Vancouver Sky Train.

Canadians don’t do that kind of thing. At least, they didn’t when I lived there.

So what’s happening? Has America’s rampant racism spread across the border?

I suppose racism could be contagious. People reading about the bad behavior of others could feel empowered to act the same way.

I believe trends in America influence events in other countries, especially a neighboring country like Canada, which shares America’s British colonial heritage. I think, for example, it was the resurgence of economic-austerity theories in the US that sparked a similar “conservative” movement in Canada.

If I am right, that means Trump is not just an American affliction but a global danger. If he and his deplorables get away with their show of strength, the rest of the world could be infected with their racist virus.

Of course I know racism is already a global plague.  But if Trump’s minions continue to grab the headlines with their racist rallies, I fear racist elements in other societies will follow suit.

So what’s the antidote to this threatened pandemic?

I know it’s not violence. Fighting fire with fire might seem appealing, but it’s the worst response in this case. If we act like the thugs we deplore, we cannot prevail.

Those of us who deplore racism must make our feelings known, but in doing so, we must occupy the moral high ground without being smug or condescending.

Perhaps the Bible has the answer after all.  Jesus is quoted as saying:

Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.

I know, that goes against our instincts. But I think it could work.

By countering contempt and hatred with forgiveness and kindness, we just might soften the hearts of our persecutors. Love begets love as hate begets hate.

It could be worth a try.

Read the Canadian story.

 

Trump’s Deplorable Base

 

It’s quite clear to me that Trump’s base is essentially racist. And he knows it. His pardon of Sheriff Joe Arpaio  is the latest evidence of this.

Cecilia Wang, deputy director of the ACLU called  Arpaio’s pardon an “endorsement of racism.”

And Vanita Gupta, who led the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division under President Obama, said the pardon was “not a dog whistle to the so-called alt-right and white supremacists but a bullhorn.”

Arpaio was convicted of contempt of court when he refused to stop racially profiling Hispanics. And Trump said at his Arizona rally the sheriff was just “doing his job.”

This kind of comment doubles down onTrump’s defense of the Charlottesville white-power marchers.

Obviously,  he has decided to drop any pretense. He’s a racist. And he doesn’t care who knows it.

He is proudly playing to his deplorable base. And it’s making the “deplorables” even more loyal to him.

I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised. I know there are racists in America. I know the militant white-power movement exists. And I know these ugly people support Trump.

What surprises me is the size of the racist element. I didn’t realize that more than a third of the American electorate shares the new president’s toxic prejudices. But that’s what the polls seem to indicate.

I suppose a lot of racists hid their ugliness before Trump’s rise to power. Now, they feel free to flaunt their true feelings.

I wonder how far they will go. These are not decent, civilized human beings. They’re rabble. And nothing is too despicable for them. Certainly not violence.

The history of the Ku Klux Klan and the “strange fruit” the white supremacists left hanging on Southern trees bear sad testimony to their barbarism.

Looking out the window at the rain, I wonder what’s next for America. And I fear it’s not going to be pleasant.

More on the Arpaio pardon

 

A Warning? Or a Threat?

 

When a Trump adviser tells our elected representatives they would endanger their lives if they vote to impeach the president, you have to wonder what’s happening in America. To me, this smells like the kind of extortion tactic used by mobsters.

Here’s the headline of a news story I read this morning:

Trump adviser Roger Stone warns any politician who votes to impeach him would ‘endanger their own life’

I thought that in the United States of America, political power is determined at the ballot box, not by threats of violence.

I guess I was misled.

Stone (accompanying photo) warns that an impeachment attempt would trigger “an insurrection like you’ve never seen.” And I fear he could be right.  Trump’s white-power allies are already using violence against opposing protesters.

But this is the first I’ve heard of a direct threat against anyone’s life.

Stone is quoted as saying:

Try to impeach him, just try it. You will have a spasm of violence in this country, an insurrection like you’ve never seen. The people will not stand for impeachment. A politician that votes for it would be endangering their own life.

Dos he mean the politician might be killed in the insurrection? I don’t think so. That could be said of any of us. We are all in danger during an insurrection. I think Stone is threatening the members of Congress, telling them they would be personally targeted.

Stone’s threat signals a new low in US politics. Trump deals in threats all the time. But I haven’t heard of him actually threatening anyone’s life.

What happens next? A racehorse’s severed head on some politician’s bed?

Read the news story

More on Roger Stone

 

Keeping us in Suspense

 

Drop by tiny drop the “leaks” keep coming but why aren’t we hearing some official news from all of those investigations into Russia’s hacking?

I would think the facts are easy to uncover. It’s common knowledge that Putin’s hackers stole information from the Democratic Party’s computers and released the damaging stuff they found. And everyone knows why they did it – to help Trump win, of course.

And there can’t be any doubt remaining that Trump’s campaign was in contact with the Russians while this was going on.

Investigators have received thousands of pages of documentation and heard hundreds of hours of testimony. Yet we the people are still waiting for word on what they dug up.

Yes, the investigators have to be meticulous.

High crimes and misdemeanors were undoubtedly committed. Even folks like me, who are “out of the loop,” must by now suspect there was money laundering involved, for example.

And I realize the investigators must carefully document their findings before making any charges – especially charges against people in positions of great power.

But were the investigations meant to go on forever?

The investigations are expensive. And our tax money is needed for other projects – building and repairing our crumbling roads and bridges for example.

The investigations are distracting. Nothing seems to get done in Congress these days.

And the investigations are divisive. Each new leak adds fuel to existing political animosities.

The investigators will have to release their findings sometime.  The earlier the better.

Special counsel’s investigation

More on congressional probes

 

A Real and Present Danger

 

I didn’t tune into Trump’s rally last night. I figured I already knew what he was going to say. And why.

So when I read this morning that TV viewers – and CNN’s Don Lemon – were shocked and appalled, I wasn’t surprised. From the reports I read, this was one of Trump’s most “unhinged” performances yet.

But I don’t think Trump is “unhinged.” I think I know what he is trying to do. And it’s frightening.

He’s rallying his base for war.

He knows that Robert Mueller cannot fail to find some nasty stuff as he digs into the Russian hacking scandal. Stuff that will probably lead to Trump’s impeachment. And possibly to criminal charges.

When that happens, Trump’s “alt-right” base will be primed for a violent response. And you can bet the “alt-left” will fight back.

What happens then is anyone’s guess. Will the Army be loyal to the Constitution? Or will some or all of the military side with Trump? Will mainstream Americans take to the streets? Will there be a full-scale civil war?

Will this be the end of democracy in America?

I know it seems unlikely.  This is a civilized country after all. We don’t normally settle our differences by killing each other. We are ruled by law.

But everything about Trump is unlikely. Nobody thought he would win the presidency. Nobody thought he would act the way he does as president.

Desperate men do desperate things. Trump is no Nixon. He will not meekly surrender the presidency. And even if he wanted to, his associates wouldn’t let him.

There’s too much at stake.

More on the rally

 

Following the Money

 

If you want to find out what’s really going on in politics, it’s a good idea to follow the money. Take Trump’s speech last night. It left the pundits shaking their heads. Why was this vehement, long-time critic of the war in Afghanistan suddenly changing his tune? Why was he now preaching patriotism and promising victory?

I think it’s the money.

When he was yelling at President Obama to get out, calling the war a dumb waste of “blood and treasure,” I bet Trump didn’t know about Afghanistan’s deposits of precious metals, rare-earth minerals and fossil fuels. But a recent study probably opened his eyes.

There’s at least $3 trillion to be dug out of the Afghan terrain, the study indicates.  Afghanistan has vast deposits of gold, silver, platinum, iron, uranium, zinc, tantalum, bauxite, copper, lithium, coal and natural gas.

I imagine Trump’s private-sector pals would like to get their paws on these resources, but the Taliban is standing in their way. So it’s going to be up to Trump – and thousands of patriotic young Americans – to get rid of the Taliban.

The war has already cost the US $700 billion and 2,000 lives – with 20,000 American military personnel wounded. Now, it seems thousands more will be put in harm’s way to enrich Trump’s buddies – and a few corrupt Afghan government officials.

Trump didn’t mention any of this last night. Neither did the pundits I heard commenting on his speech. But what else could have made him pivot so completely?

Trump’s speech

 More on Afghanistan’s buried treasure

 

What Does Mercer Want?

 

Puzzled by Steve Bannon’s abrupt departure from Trump’s White House? Rachel shed some light on it last night. Watching her MSNBC show, I gathered that Bannon’s secret boss is a billionaire named Robert Mercer and Bannon’s reassignment marks a new tactic in Mercer’s campaign to push Trump – and the country – farther to the right.

Apparently, Mercer figures Bannon will be more useful rabble rousing on the web than as a White House insider.

Mercer was the largest single contributor to Trump’s election campaign, Rachel noted.

It was Mercer who put Bannon and Kellyanne Conway in charge of the campaign. It’s Mercer who funds Bannon’s alt-right web site. And it’s Mercer who gives Bannon his marching orders.

Intrigued, I Googled Robert Mercer this morning. And what I found is chilling.

This man and his daughter Rebekah belong in a James Bond film. As the villains, of course. (see illustration).

A computer wizard who uses electronics to generate huge gains on the stock market, Mercer subscribes to the most preposterous conspiracy theories. And he is hell bent on changing America to his liking.

In his world, the Clintons are murderers, man-made climate change is a hoax, it’s the African-Americans who’re racist, government “elements” are behind  terrorist attacks, “mainstream” journalists are all liars – and so on.

In addition to funding Trump’s campaign, Bannon’s alt-right web site and a long list of “conservative” think tanks, Mercer has financed spurious books and films “exposing” the Clintons and advancing weird notions.

One film seems to present the Duck Dynasty patriarch (at right) as a latter-day prophet.

Mercer also has a “psychological operations” (propaganda) company called Cambridge Analytica, which played a major role in Trump’s campaign.

Mercer’s ambitions extend beyond America. He also supported the campaign that pushed Britain out of the European Union.

Interestingly, it’s Mercer’s daughter Rebekah who manages his propaganda campaign. She has been called “the Most Powerful Woman in GOP Politics.”

Terrifyingly, Rebekah Mercer shares her father’s commitment to the radical right. She runs the family foundation, which doles out millions to “conservative” non-profit groups. And she is on the boards of influential think tanks, including the Heritage Foundation.

Obviously, it’s not the people we vote for who call the shots in America today. It’s the billionaires who  secretly fund them. I’m sure you know that Mercer is not alone in this category. The Koch brothers and Sheldon Adelson come to mind for example.

And it seems there’s nothing anyone can do to change this frightening phenomenon.

More on Bannon

More on Mercer

Rebekah’s role